EFF Defends The Right to Own Smart Card Technology

February 2004

Film and Television, Computers, Internet

The Electronic Frontiers Foundation (EFF) has filed an Amicus brief on behalf of the Public in the DirecTV appeal in the United States.The brief is filed as a friend of the court defending the right of the public to own and experiment with general-purpose technology. The case that will determine whether satellite giant DirecTV can sue “smart card” technology owner Mike Treworgy for simply possessing hardware that enables him to program electronic smart cards.
Smart cards are computer devices that have a multitude of legitimate purposes, which can also be used illegally to intercept satellite signals. DirecTV believes that mere purchase of smart card programming hardware should constitute proof that the hardware is being used illegally.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) COMMENT : “Computer researchers, network administrators, engineers and others are using smart card technology in ways that are perfectly legal, yet DirecTV would have the courts adopt a theory of guilt-by-purchase” said EFF Staff Attorney Jason Schultz. “This is not only grossly unjust, it also threatens to scare legitimate innovators away from an extremely promising branch of technology.”

In the lower court ruling, U.S. District Court Judge John E. Steele agreed to dismiss DirecTV’s possession claim in its lawsuit against Mr. Treworgy, finding that the company does not have the authority to decide who can legally own the technology. DirecTV appealed, making this case the first such dispute in the country to reach the appellate court level.

For EFF’s media release see : http://www.eff.org/directvdefense/20040112_eff_pr.php

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